social innovation in the long term

Marsupial social organization apparently has changed greatly over the past 64 million years. Marsupials that lived 64 million years ago were gregarious: fossils show 35 marsupials living within likely physical contact of each other. That fossil group also shows considerable sexual dimorphism of the sort associated with male-to-male mating competition and polygyny.[1] In short, marsupials, which are a division of mammals, had 64 million years ago a social organization similar to that of young adult humans living in high-income urban areas today. Marsupials today, in contrast, are usually highly solitary mammals.

More recent historical evidence points to considerable variability in the formation of larger, more enduring human groups.  The 8.5-meter-tall stone tower at Jericho, constructed about 11 thousand years ago, required considerable collective human effort.  It clearly doesn’t directly relate to providing food, shelter, or physical safety.  The tower at Jericho probably was related to a complex of beliefs that played a key role in instituting the associated community.[2]  Recent excavations at a site called WF16 in Jordan about 100 kilometers south of Jericho have uncovered an amphitheater-shaped structure with two levels of decorated benches along the inner side of the structure’s wall.  Other buildings at W16 have a variety of shapes and apparent communal purposes.  Like the tower at Jericho and the monumental complex at Gobekli Tepe, W16 buildings indicate that complex shared beliefs motivated community investment.[3]

A recent AOL / Nielsen study found that 23% of all social media messages contain links to content.  The study headlined: “Content is the fuel of the social web.”  But fuel is tightly defined technologically.  Content encompasses enormous space for performative play.  Content in social networks functions primarily as social objects in negotiating human relationships.

Human nature, external technology, and economics leave open considerable possibilities for social organization.  Digital technology and the Internet vastly increase possibilities for creating content. What content is produced and shared will significantly effect social organization.  Create and share content well!

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[1]  Ladevèze, Sandrine, Christian de Muizon, Robin M. D. Beck, Damien Germain, & Ricardo Cespedes-Paz. “Earliest evidence of mammalian social behaviour in the basal Tertiary of Bolivia.” Nature Letter (2011) doi:10.1038/nature09987  Here’s a news article covering this research.

[2] Liran, Roy,  & Ran Barkai. “Casting a shadow on Neolithic Jericho.”  Antiquity, v. 85, n. 327 (Mar. 2011).

[3] Finlayson, Bill, Steven J. Mithen, Mohammad Najjar, Sam Smith, Darko Maricevic, Nick Pankhurst, and Lisa Yeomans.  “Architecture, sedentism, and social complexity at Pre-Pottery Neolithic A WF16, Southern Jordan.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. (PNAS), May 2, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1017642108

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